20 July 2020

Fenella Gill: My Musical Childhood

WRITTEN BY FENELLA GILL

The slower pace of life has provided the opportunity to reminisce on different aspects of my musical life to date. 

I’ve been flicking through old Sydney Symphony brochures, articles and some of my many photos of past orchestral tours, as well as finding some gems from my childhood.

Photo: Fenella's collection of past Sydney Symphony Orchestra brochures and articles.

I grew up in a family of musical sisters as the youngest of four. With three of us going on to be professional musicians there was always plenty of music in the house!

I thought it would be interesting to give my parents, who of course are also in lockdown, a small task. I asked them to write down some memories or recollections they have about me as a child learning the cello. Here is a little of what my parents wrote:

“Fenella began learning the cello when about seven years old, taking to it like a duck to water. Although only a small person to play such a large instrument she managed it beautifully through good posture. We have pleasant memories of her diminutive figure at practise, painstakingly drawing beautiful musical notes from her cello. She would practise every day without fail and was conscientious in this routine, adopting her teacher’s advice to play beautifully, not competitively. These attributes amongst others, gave her a good start to life in the world of music and have stood her in good stead...

 “Many years have passed since, and the sound of music of the children practising is something I will always miss. When they first moved away, I frequently turned the corner of the house after work and could definitely hear the sound of music floating out of the house. Sadly, in my imagination!”

This lovely piece of writing from my parents seems very appropriate to accompany this artwork I'm lucky enough to have hanging in my music room: a painting of me as a very young cellist! 

Photo: This painting of Fenella as a child by artist Kim Nelson (1958–2015) hangs in her music room.  

I am so grateful to my parents for all their encouragement at that time – perhaps something I didn’t appreciate then.